"As of New Year’s Day we started all over again from scratch." Those were the words from Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge last Sunday, via Bayern's official website, when asked about the challenges that the club have before them this season.
The first of such hurdles that Pep Guardiola's side will have to overcome is a tricky opening tie away to Gladbach at Borussia Park this coming Friday, in the inaugural Bundesliga round of 2014.
Lucien Favre's side have been simply outstanding at home this season with only two points dropped—to Wolfsburg on the final matchday of last year—from a possible 27. And with no major sales in the January transfer window or injury scares to worry about, the Foals go into this game with very little to worry about.
Bayern, on the other hand, do have a considerable squad of players who still remain injured or at least not match fit following an extensive trip of friendlies over the winter break. An update from the club's website on Tuesday, January 21 stated that Arjen Robben, Philipp Lahm, Daniel Van Buyten, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez all missed full training, while Franck Ribery returned to the first-team squad after missing the recent friendly against Salzburg.
Despite the likely scenario of club captain Lahm missing Friday's match, we're likely to see a back line not too dissimilar to the one with which Guardiola has stuck for the duration of the season thus far.
This entails Rafinha at right-back and David Alaba in his favoured role as left-back, whilst Dante and Jerome Boateng take up the responsibilities of Bayern's centre-back pairing—a back four who have played together countless times and who should go in to the game with a degree of confidence.
It is in midfield that we feel the absence of not only Lahm the strongest, but Schweinsteiger and Martinez, too. In the single-pivot role, we're likely to see young Thiago Alcantara return with an opportunity to continue his campaign for a regular first-team spot, while Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze take up the two positions in front.
A midfield trio that oozes technique and wonderful flair, yet not a lot of physicality or general regard for defensive responsibilities. Don't be surprised if Kroos and Thiago swap roles either, since the young German has played as the last midfielder in front of the back line before.
Up front we have the welcome return of Franck Ribery—the third best player in the world according to FIFA's recent Balon d'Or ceremony—who looks to partner alongside Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic due to the injuries to Robben.
Yet we may see Guardiola rest Ribery if he feels that the Frenchmen's match fitness is lacking. Young Xherdan Shaqiri got plenty of game time over the winter tour and will be raring to take his chances against Gladbach.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!